“The stench of rotting flesh filled my car as we rolled down Waiyaki way looking for a spot we could dump the black garbage bags. Every time we thought we had found a spot, headlights would appear from nowhere and we would abandon our plan. We had been driving for 3 hours now and we feared we would be stopped by cops at any time…”
A few months earlier we were sitting in a restaurant planning on what we thought was the best money making plan ever. It would be short term and best of all, the proceeds would be tax free. We held our meeting in hushed voices and wrote out a sketchy plan on some white serviettes.
The project was going to take 4 months after which we would cash in and move on to other bigger things. The partnership was made up of myself and my long time friends Jimmy and Muba. We felt invincible and we were confident that we had explored all possible scenarios of the plan. Little did we know our venture would end up with lives lost. It would also turn out to be one of our most memorable business lessons ever.
We set into action by ensuring our finances were okay. We asked around and carried out due diligence by gathering successful case studies. To cap it all, we already had a willing buyer who I had gotten connected to by a credible source. The buyer was specific; every ‘package’ had to conform to a weight of 1.5 kilos, no more. Otherwise it would raise a red flag with his boss and the whole deal would be considered suspicious and eventually cancelled.
We wrote out a plan and swung into action with the vision of a handsome profit burning brightly in our minds.
We bought 600 birds with 100 of them as insurance against the unpredictable. In poultry farming you have to account for losses, some stemming from negligence by the handlers and others just from random acts of God. We carefully followed our plan and not before long we started to see our project grow into the most promising venture. The birds grew big so fast that they crossed the 1.5 kilo mark on the third month, even our farm neighbours could not hide their envy. We had opted to feed the birds with the highest quality of chicken feeds available and the good thing was, all this was still within budget. We had estimated that we would break even with the first batch of chicken and start making profit on the second batch.So I called up my guy the buyer and explained to him our weight problem. He brushed it off saying we needed not worry as he’d ‘sort’ it with his boss. The only condition he gave was that he wanted a cut from our sales. We gladly agreed.
So finally the day came for the slaughter and our my guy gave us the green light to deliver the chicken at his boss’ hotel by 8PM that evening. So we enlisted the services of this giant of a man who had a reputation of being the most efficient chicken executioner in Nairobi. He was this 6 foot hulk with the most scarred face and the coldest eyes we had seen. He always walked around with his tools of trade; a set of knives, string, a sheet of polythene (which he wore to to prevent blood spatter) and a pack of cheap cigarettes. He looked like a morbid serial killer. Anyway he looked like the perfect person for the job because it takes a lot of cold heart to slaughter 500 chicken.
He filled a drum with water and started a fire under it. Soon he was snatching birds from the chicken barn, snapping their heads off their bodies like dry spaghetti and throwing them into the boiling water. He made short of the work and in two hours the chicken were hanging upside down dripping a mixture of water and blood; all ready to be delivered to the customer in the next two hours. Now it was time for the delivery.
The load was almost a ton and I could feel Iris my old station wagon groaning under the heavy weight as we flew down Kangundo road in the open savannah towards the city lights. We dropped ‘the executioner’ along the way after paying him [much to everyone’s relief]. It had been very uncomfortable riding with him at the back of the car just staring into a crazy trance. All the time, he never said a word despite our repeated attempt at having a conversation. We couldn’t stop fearing he would go crazy and snap our necks from behind, then bury us in shallow graves on a lonely stretch by the road.
As we edged closer to the city, I called my guy to tell him we were almost there. That’s when everything went south. He pretended not to remember that we had spoken about the birds being overweight. He also indifferently asked whether we had a signed order from the hotel which obviously we didn’t. He then delivered the final blow saying that they had already gotten a delivery by their usual supplier and therefore they wouldn’t take our stock. It took me a while to process the whole conversation and at some point I thought I was having a heart attack. As I broke the news to my partners, I could see Jimmy almost tearing up the steering wheel in frustration and I could hear Muba laughing in the distance as he usually does when he can’t comprehend what just happened. We pulled over to the side of the road and took a moment to feel sorry for ourselves. This was turning out to be a really bad day.
After brainstorming, we came up with our first idea for mitigation. We would ride into town and sell the chickens on the busiest highway in the city. So we drove to Uhuru highway and parked on the side of the Nyayo stadium round about and went over our preposition for the millionth time; a chicken worth 700 shillings at a price of 250 shillings. We were sure it was an offer customers wouldn’t refuse. We targeted to sell at least 50 birds each between Jimmy, Muba and myself. The plan was to offload as much as possible and sell the rest to a restaurant owned by a sister to Victor one of the friends in our circle. Little did we know this would turn out to be the hardest sell ever. Motorists would roll up their windows whenever we tried selling them of the chicken. It never occurred to us that selling chicken stupidly cheap (and on the highway) was suspicious! Someone in a matatu even told the rest of the passengers that we had slaughtered the marabou storks that are usually perched on the trees along Nyayo stadium, and that’s why our chicken were too big! We got so desperate we even offered them to motorists for free. In the end we had disposed only 10 fat chickens with 490 to go!
We packed up and headed to Victor’s sister and sadly, she would only take 5. By this time, we had even bought ice blocks because the executioner had warned us that after 24 hours the chicken would start going bad. It was almost midnight when we got the idea of asking our friends and families to assist with storing some of the birds in their refrigerators but they could only take so much. We still had 400 to go. At 2AM we gave up and decided to leave the remaining chickens in the car hoping the ice would keep them fresh until morning.
The next day was a work day and as we left the house we couldn’t help but catch a faint familiar smell as we walked towards the car. This is when our real ordeal started.
The Thika superhighway hadn’t been built yet and so the traffic usually started on our doorstep. We had opened all the windows and we could see everyone on the road sniffing and trying to investigate where the foul smell was coming from. I had never felt so defeated in my life. As usual, Muba wouldn’t stop laughing and Jimmy eventually joined the laughing band. I personally was just in a daze. Clearly we were having one of the worst days of our lives. As Jimmy dropped us to our workplaces, each person went into their office carrying two chickens for ‘advertising’. To date we all agree that Muba had the most hilarious experience of all that day as he was suspected of murdering his boss but I’ll tell you about later.
Jimmy went ahead and parked the car under a tree at his workplace hoping the shade would slow down the decomposition of the chicken. By midday he had called us saying his workmates were reporting an overpowering smell of death.
That’s when we all spoke on phone and agreed that our business had gone bust and it was time to pull off the final act. Disposal. We decided we would buy garbage bags and wait for midnight to find a discreet dumping ground. We also enlisted one more accomplice in our circle Naito who would help us with pulling it off.
At midnight we headed out into the dark. At first we tried finding dumpsites along Thika road where we used to live but the mayor had done his work well that year. We couldn’t find any. So Jimmy suggested Waiyaki Way as the perfect place since he had grown up there and knew the dumping sites like the back of his hand.
The stench of rotting flesh filled my car as we rolled down Waiyaki way looking for a spot we could dump the blag garbage bags. Every time we thought we had found a spot, headlights would appear from nowhere and we would abandon our plan. By now we had been driving for 3 hours now, and we feared we would be stopped at any time by the police. That’s when it hit me that we had committed mass murder because thanks to us, more than 400 chicken had lost their lives for nothing. As morning drew closer we decided to go back home because the situation was getting risky and out of control. We were tired and sleepy and as we turned into the last street home, Naito made a comment about dumping the whole thing on the roadside just before our gate. Little did she know what she had just said was the best idea we’d heard all week.
The next morning we woke up to chaos in the neighbourhood. Somehow stray dogs had managed to rip the bags open and strewn the carcasses all over. The stench was overwhelming. Good thing no one knew who was responsible. We quietly slipped into our car which was still reeking and drove out to work. We had gotten away with murder. But we wouldn’t eat chicken for the rest of the year let alone look at it rotating on the grill behind the Kenchic joint window.
The whole event taught us some hard and important lessons. Firstly every business idea needs a proof of market before one invests their hard earned money. Secondly always have a backup plan to your backup plan because anything can go wrong. Lastly, always be cautious when someone offers to hook you up with a contact while saying “I have a guy”.
To get my second gig, I had to convince a shopkeeper called Mwangi in our sleepy town centre that I was the best sign writer he would ever come across. The year was 1999 and I was 16. I told him that his kiosk didn’t have a name and that he was losing potential customers as a result.
To come up with a name for his kiosk I charged him 100 shillings ($1). To write the name of the shop I explained that I would charge him 10 shillings ($0.1) for every letter. Soon after I tabled my offer, I realised that my final pay depended directly on the number of letters I painted on his fascia board.To maximise my revenue I suggested that we name the shop Mwangi Shop & General Supplies Store Kamulu. That would give me a total of 470 shillings ($4.7) on completion of the job.
Mwangi agreed and I set off to work preparing the board and sketching out the text in pencil. But something inside me felt guilty about the the offer I had just made. I knew I was giving Mwangi a raw deal. I knew it would work better for him if we’d just named his kiosk ‘Mwangi’s Shop’ as this was easier to remember and as a result good for his business.
I had to make a decision. Should I do the job and walk away with my self serving pay or give Mwangi a good branding for his business by creating a memorable brand? I always walked past Mwangi’s shop everyday and so if I didn’t give him a working solution I would have to face my mistake everyday. Everyone would know that it was I who wrote that long sign that was hard to remember. And at that moment I realised that the money wasn’t as important as the outcome. I knew that if the board worked for Mwangi, I would get referral business from that one job and I would be proud to be known as the sign-writer who made his business flourish by giving it a memorable name. On the downside, this meant that I would now make only 200 shillings ($2) from the entire job; half of what I hoped for. Despite this, I chose my customer’s interests first.
The decision to choose integrity over my personal interests proved to be the best business decision ever. Mwangi’s shop became a known brand in the town centre. It even became a referral name for a bus stop which was very useful for a place so far out of the city. I got to write signs for several more shops in the area at a price of 30 shillings per letter and 200 shillings for images. I was 16 and just halfway through high school so this money was more than enough for me.
I learned what became my best lesson in design. That if you put your personal needs before the needs of your client, you will only profit once, no more. But if you put your clients’ needs first you will never run out of opportunities.
Secondly, learned that it’s hard to convince people to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself first.
Thirdly I realised that I had to re-think how I billed my clients for creative work otherwise one day I’d be forced to sell my kidneys to make ends meet.
While I was going about my business sniffing here and there, marking a bush or two with my pee, I kept wondering if there was a new way to hide my hard earned bones other than the traditional dig-a-hole-and-bury method. Where could I put my bones and watch them grow so I didn’t have to keep scavenging like the stray dog that I am? How could I become the most successful and happiest dog in the neighborhood just like Bosco the smooth furred happy-but-scary bulldog down the street? What did he do to become that confident and powerful? He sure is very ugly but why is his bowl always full? Why is his pack that big?
I decided to face my fears and confront the happiest and most confident dogs [that I admired] in the neighborhood and ask them what their secret was. I was surprised how warmly these happy dogs received me. You see as a dog you get used to being constantly chased off marked territories with your tail right between your legs so you can understand this was new to me. Anyway I asked them how they did it and they gave me five investment options to making my pile of bones grow and most of all being a happy dog.
Invest in yourself, the Bulldog said
Investing in yourself should be your biggest priority. How good are you at fetching? Can you sniff better than the next dog?Are your teeth constantly clean? What do you know about catching a rabbit mid air? Do you practice? As a dog you are constantly in a state of growth. The only difference between you and the next dog is your rate of growth. If you don’t grow you become irrelevant over time. Growth starts from knowledge; how to run without tiring, how to know what to chase and what not to waste your energy on among the things you should master. Knowledge becomes power because it changes the way you act and react. When you put an effort into gaining more knowledge you have understood the first rule of investing in yourself.
Investing in yourself should be your biggest priority. You wish you had a few less pounds so you could run faster? Or you with you had more muscle so you could be the better dog in the fight? Invest in keeping in shape by knowing how your body works and embarking on a training program that will suit you. Keep your fur clean so you can be confident. Keep your teeth clean and sharp and avoid eating leftovers. In our world dogs are attracted to unique dogs who posses unusual capability. What is the one unique thing that you posses that a pack will identify you with? Is it how you sniff? Is it how you hunt? What are you good at? Surely you don’t want to be the poor lonely pup that no one remembers for anything! Invest in your uniqueness and the world will reward you for it.
Invest in Family the, Pug said
I know a dog who knows a beagle who dedicated his life to fetching and collecting bones and in the process became very successful… and lonely. During his quest for tasty bones he paid little attention to his bitch and puppies because he convinced himself that he was doing everything so they could enjoy a never ending supply of food in the future. Now his puppies are all grown up and are always turning down his generous gestures because they feel like they are being bribed. His bitch left him and married an average retriever whose big heart compensates for his often empty bowl and they are quite happy. Our rich beagle is forever lonely and what’s more sad is that all the friends he has right now are there because of his pile of bones. It’s good to work hard, but it is also good to share your time with family.
Invest For Yourself, the Rottweiler said
After trying my paws at the numerous hunting ideas I got through friends and family, I have come to the conclusion that I will always sleep hungry when I follow another dog’s hunting idea. My point is, if the prey is not in your kill zone you can always let it go and hunt it another day. All in all knowing that a good hunt is hard to come by, it is very important to keep something for yourself because the future is never a kind friend especially if you didn’t hide your kill well. As with all forms of bone hiding, there are rules and the biggest one is don’t hide all your bones in one hole. To hunt you need energy and this can only come from the bones you saved from the last hunt so you can eat and share but always keep some for yourself.
Invest in Faith, the Poodle said
Yes I was surprised to hear this from a pampered dog that I have never seen hunting. But her point of view raised a very important point. You need to believe that the hunt will be successful. The success of the hunt must first happen between your flappy ears before it can be real. There are certain events in your life; good and bad that serve as evidence of a power that is always watching over us. Be thankful in advance and acknowledge the greatness of this power. Take time to feed your spiritual self by meditating on a successful hunt. By doing so you can strengthen your faith and live the quality of life you want. Faith is the beacon that always keeps us in the right direction regardless of the situations we face in our lives.
Invest in the Pack, the Terrier said
Along the way you will find canines of strategic importance. One of the dogs I interviewed was a terrier named Swish. He told me the main reason for his success was his pack. He likes making new friends and he has realized that every time he’s on an hunt he’ll always find dogs willing to help him track down and catch new rabbits. Why? Because he realizes every dog is unique. Some are fast, some are brave and others like him are smart. He genuinely cares for his friends. He will always visit a member of his pack and offer him a bone for no reason. He will call out his pack for a run in the fields just so they could feel the wind on their flapping tongues together as one. You see, being in the pack is not just about hunting, it’s also about family and support. Just because of investing in his friends, Swish’s pack is the biggest and most successful of all. They eat well and their furs are forever shiny.
When I first showed up at Capital FM for work I didn’t know what to expect but I knew what I wanted. I wanted to learn how to be successful. In my mind, there was only one man who I could learn this from, Chris Kirubi. This part of my life story started 5 years before when I was working for Tedd Josiah. He is one of the most iconic Kenyan music producers from whom I had learnt invaluable lessons that I still apply today.
It so happened that one day we were cleaning the studio offices at Blu Zebra Records when a card fell out of a magazine stack. On picking it up, I noticed that it was no ordinary card. It was ivory in color and it had an emblem that was raised on the card’s surface in some sort of waxy print. It looked sophisticated and the texture gave off a rather luxurious feel to it. The name on the card read Chris Kirubi and the details were arranged in a simple and neat manner that was laid-back-confident. The name was familiar, I knew this was one of the top businessmen in the country and I also knew what most people at the time knew about him; that he had a court case going on where he was being accused of having fleeced a state owned supermarket chain and cab company. Regardless, I held on to the card and went about researching all I could about his empire and what kind of man he was. In my quest to know about him I couldn’t differentiate what information about him was true and what was myth. In the end, I decided I would meet him one day and find out why he was successful.
Fast forward 5 years later, I was seated at the Capital FM reception waiting to be interviewed for a graphic designer position by the then marketing manager Angelique Bennaars. She took me in for the interview and later told me I had had been accepted into the company and that I was to start immediately as an apprentice under one Mark Mwera. I was led to my workstation that was tucked away in a corner. It was stuffy and hot but it was where I got my first lesson from ‘Chairman’ as everyone at the station called him.
1. Know your people
You see, CK has a habit of always visiting his businesses without notice and you would be surprised to know that he knows all his employees personally. On my first day as he was passing my corner on his way to the studio, he stopped and looked at me and asked me, “Who the hell are you and why are you using my machine?” I was dumfounded, and for a moment I didn’t know what to say. “I’m the new designer…” I replied in a scared voice.
“Did I interview you?” He asked now with his voice raised.
“No. But I was interviewed by Angelique”, I said trying to assert myself.
He came over and ordered me to leave my machine and get off the premises because he didn’t who I was. Anyway this scene replayed over the next few days until he realized I wasn’t going anywhere and so he let me stay and work. He also warned that he would throw me out the window from the 19th floor if I didn’t work hard and deliver outstanding work. In the end I got to understand the concept behind his actions because this is how he runs his empire. He makes an effort to know his people. From that time, he never forgot my name and made it a point to know what my life goals were. To date he remembers I told him I would accomplish more than he ever did [the challenge is still on]. I also realized that the man knows everyone who works for him, be it in his corporate businesses or even manufacturing plants. It’s hard to find an employee in any Kirubi’s companies who hasn’t interacted with the Chairman. As a result I have learnt that as a leader when you make an effort to personally know the people working for you, what you get in return is a sense of ownership towards your organization by employees. One feels motivated to perform when you know that your boss knows you personally and appreciates the role you play.
2. Only Buy Into What You Would Like to Own
On asking him what I should consider when buying stock his answer was simple. He said, “My approach to choosing the company whose stocks I will buy is based on a simple objective; owning the whole company. That way, my decision will be based on logical thinking and not emotion or speculation. When buying always ask yourself, is this the type of company I want to own? Does it’s business model appeal to me and is it easy to understand?”
Over the few years I worked in his company I studied his investment patterns and I realized the reason why he was successful in the stock market is because his investment style was long term and the motivation was to be the majority owner of the company in question. Later he would say “I don’t invest to make a quick buck because doing so defies the laws of nature. When you plant, it is only natural that you nurture your crop and patiently wait for the crop to mature. Harvesting before the right time will be robbing yourself off the greater potential of what you would have gotten out of your investment. This has always been CK’s approach when purchasing anything not only stocks. This year (2015) he made Kshs. 2.8 billion from the sale of his UAP Holdings stake after waiting for 10 years. Read the story here
3. Be Your Product’s Best Salesman and it’s Most Loyal Consumer
You will always catch CK selling and hawking his products shamelessly regardless of where he is.
Once we were having dinner in a posh restaurant and the waiter brought us a certain brand of bottled water which visibly offended CK. You see, CK is a shareholder of Nairobi Bottlers, a bottling franchise of the Coca Cola Company which produces it’s own drinking water known as Dasani™. The water the waiter had served us was another brand that was a competitor and CK’s loyalty to his brand is the reason why he was offended. Anyway he went on to ensure that the restaurant changed their brand of drinking water by selling the Dasani™ brand to the restaurant owner. The condition he gave was simple; if he was to dine in that restaurant again they had to be his customers first. It was the ultimate statement of loyalty in business.
On normal days, you will always catch CK stopping women on the streets of Nairobi to ask them if they have used his Haco hair products and what he can change or add in his offering. One of the most memorable quotes I got from him is ‘A good salesman will be rich. A good salesman who sells a product he can stake his life on will own the world’. As for his lifestyle brands, one would expect CK to use imported sophisticated expensive brands but you’d be surprised to know he uses the very products that he manufactures as proof of their quality. Check any Haco products and you will see his signature. It’s that serious.
4. Loyalty is Not a Word You Throw Around
After almost a decade working for this great man, I decided to move on and put into practice what I had learned. It was the hardest thing to do and I ended up leaving a big part of my heart at Capital FM. These are the people I spent most of my time with and eventually they had become my family. Nevertheless it was time. I had tried quitting many times before but would always change my mind the last minute because of one thing – loyalty. I had been treated well and the company had made huge sacrifices for me even when I didn’t feel I was worth it. What I learned from Dr. Kirubi is a lesson that every leader should take very seriously. Loyalty is proactive. You offer loyalty first before demanding for it. I remember one day out of the blue CK interrupted a Digital Media Department meeting and said “It would make me sad if even one of you turned out to be a failure in future. I will do everything in my power to empower you, be it in your work here at the company or even in your personal business” He then paused and added “Anyone who works for me is my friend and family and I am loyal to them regardless of what role they play in the company.” In the years I have worked for him, CK has always shown loyalty to his employees especially in their time of need. Even now after leaving Capital FM he is still loyal to me and it is the one reason why I will always answer his call and be ready to show my goodwill.
5. Every Member is Important
Every year in his companies, CK always gives what has come to be known as the chairman’s speech. It’s a special event for everyone who works for him because it is the occasion where he declares his stand. It has become a tradition that I strongly believe has played a vital role in his success. One that would recommend for every company. During this speech he reminds all his employees [whom he prefers to call team mates] of the vision of the company and the state of the business. He always assures his people that regardless of the state of the economy or business, he will do everything in his power to protect everyone’s job. In one of his speeches which I came to regard as my best he said “I feel rich and wealthy not because of the money we have made but by the fact that through you I have played a major role in bringing up all these families. That is the reason why I look forward to every new day”. He will always finish his speeches by mentioning every person by name (regardless of their position in the company) and telling the rest why this person is important to the business. This however is just a small part of what he really does on a daily basis. CK will always make impromptu visits to his companies and randomly pick on any employee with an aim to motivate them. He is one of the most powerful motivators I know and it is because of one small detail. Every member of the team regardless of their role is just as important as the next. His actions speak louder than his words.
6. First Get the Numbers Right. The Money Will Come.
CK says the difference between the current crop of young people and the young people of yesterday is attitude towards patience. We want to invest very little but have big returns and in a shorter than normal timeframe. When we first started developing the digital arm of Capital FM his first directive was for us to build numbers before we started selling our product. At the time we thought it was a risky move to spend three years just building and testing the platform while we looked for a strong audience base. It just didn’t make sense at the time because it meant putting money in and not expecting any returns for a long time. A four years later, we were probably the only digital media outfit making money from the internet locally. You see, many digital media companies don’t get to break even and it is very hard for them to admit. The reason is hidden in the numbers. When you have a big audience to talk to, your return on investment grows automatically. When you have a steady supply of quality content your profitability is extended by virtue of repeat usage and referral. We learnt this hands on. I later came to realize that this is how he approaches all his business ventures -Take time to prepare, test and fine tune your product as you increase your customer base and in the end money will be a by-product of your offering.
7. Your Presence Should Be Felt
When I was working for him I saw how CK carried himself in the presence of individuals who may be wealthier and more successful than he is and I learnt one big lesson. You are as important as you feel and people will treat you as importantly as how you present yourself. Most likely you will never be able to tell if the person CK is talking to is more successful than he (CK) is. Why? Kirubi walks with his own atmosphere and always owns any gathering he attends. He dresses fashionably and his scent always seems to denote power and influence. He makes sure he is the centre of attention and is eloquent so that his every word is solid and full of confidence. When visiting his businesses he will always put on one of two masks; rebuke or praise – employees usually cannot predict which mask he will walk in with. What this does is it creates this undeniable presence of a man whose every decision will have a heavy impact on everyone’s life. He can call anyone and ask about the progress of a particular project just to show you he never forgets. This keeps employees constantly focused on their deliverables without putting unnecessary pressure on themselves.
Asserting his presence ensures CK always has the upper hand in any deal and negotiation.
8. Your Life is Your First Business
Chris Kirubi will never involve himself in something where he does not stand to gain. Secondly he will never live beyond his means. One day he took a workmate and I for a drink at the bar downstairs. He started by clearly stating that we were only going to drink for an hour since he had guests who he was supposed to meet later. As we ordered our drinks I noticed him frown as I made my order and I instantly knew I’d done something that he didn’t approve. You see while he and my workmate had ordered a beer, I had gone ahead and ordered two doubles of a single scotch whisky.
“How can you engage in the same nonsense that the young man seated behind us is doing?” He barked while pointing to a guy in his thirties who was busy entertaining two digger looking type girls with a bottle of rum on the table. “You should never order a drink you can’t afford. I’m not saying you won’t be able to pay for this but I am telling you ask yourself what percentage of your salary you will have used to buy this drink.” I got him loud and clear because I knew he lived by this principle. In every aspect of your life you need to live within your means and this will be your best motivator to work hard to move to the next step. Likewise every action one involves themselves in should lead to an outcome of positive gain failure to which it will be time wasted.
9. A Leader Does not Delegate
Yes you heard me right. In the years that I worked for the man, I never saw DJ CK delegate work even once. Instead he used his skills as a salesman to sell ideas to his employees. He would come up with an idea or a challenge and start breaking it down himself in excitement. It was always fun to witness how his mind works. The surprising result of his proactive nature was proaction by his employees. Everyone wanted in on his project because he had sold it to them first and not ordered them to do it. Soon every team member would assign themselves duties and the job would be completed half the time it would have taken if we had followed a conventional format. It somehow always reminded me of the show ‘Pimp my Ride’ where the garage owner sells his idea to his team members who in turn share what their contribution will be towards restoring the featured car. I acknowledge that every company is different but I believe for any person in management, this principle will get you great results that are good on time and quality. When you delegate you are forced into an uncomfortable zone where you have to rely on mediocre business systems to drive your machines (workers) to produce.
10. The Eagle in the Sky Holds the Sharpest Vision
I have always been interested to hear people talking about the companies in which they work. One of the things that strike me is how frustrated many people are with their jobs. One would expect that these frustrations are caused by poor pay but surprisingly they arise from lack of a clear understanding of one’s duties and roles in the company. This is caused in turn by a leadership that lacks a clear vision that is easy to understand and explain. Many people often find themselves in roles they are not supposed to be playing and are not passionate about – this has become the source of their misery. CK has always had a clear vision of what he wants and how he will get it. He is always reminding his employees why they are in his business and the roles they have to play to achieve his vision. In addition to that, he is always asking employees to have a clear vision for their own lives. If you were to walk into Capital FM offices today, all you will find are happy faces of people who know what role they have to play towards the vision of the company which is clear and simple to understand.
There are many lessons that I have learnt from this man that would constitute volumes if I were to write them down, so this is just but a start. What have you learnt from your mentor lately?
By Jimmy Mwangi
I have to start by commending all the writers who contribute to this blog. Finding a way with words is one of the most fascinating elements of a human brain. With Words, you get along. You’re peas in a pod. Like peanut butter and jelly. Big Up guys!! Amazingly talented. Well having read a very beautifully articulated piece titled ‘Pick Up the Phone !‘, a few thoughts have been lingering in my mind. Well, lets see how well it goes….
The CNN reporter in the background announces … another increase in poor nations aid. The World Bank said yesterday that it would almost triple lending this year, to help prevent ‘HUMAN CRISIS’ in developing countries and maybe turmoil in financial markets… I’m sure we hear this everyday. its sad that its even become background noise and we fail to realize that what they are actually describing is US! …. Machiavelli said ‘the reason why there is no change is because the people who stand to loose from change have all the power and the people who stand to gain from the change have none of the power.. what he actually described was the global structure of rich and poor in today’s society!
Would you call yourself rich?
If your answer to that was not a yes, then you are in trouble! For over 40 years as a country, we’ve been asking ourselves what causes poverty? As much as there are various challenges linked to the increased difficulty in the prosperity of Africans, I believe one major issue has contributed to the now created system of economic and personal slavery. Something that has colonized our minds and continues to plummet this country. We are actually the biggest problem! All along, we’ve been asking the wrong question. what we should be asking ourselves is what causes Wealth? Hold that thought though, don’t be too quick to think that by wealth I mean money.
Let me introduce you to a very simple idea. One that has changed my thinking in the way I work, in the way I do stuff and in the way I operate in society. How do we explain when some things don’t work the way we assumed? or better still, how do we explain when some people seem to achieve all the things that seem to defy all the assumptions? For example, why is Apple so innovative? Year after year they seem to be more innovative than any of the other companies within their category and yet, they are just a computer company. They are just like anyone else. They have access to the same talent, same consultancies, same media? Why is it that they seem to have something different?
Why is it that the Wright brothers achieved the discovery of controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air flight, while there were certainly other teams that were better qualified, better funded and in better positions to achieve this? There is something else at play here. As it turns out, there is a pattern, all the greatest leaders and organizations of the world, think and act in the same exact way and its the complete opposite to anyone else. This whole idea comes from one of my most favorite speakers and orators Simon Sinek through a simple concept he calls ‘The Golden Circle.’ Its probably the worlds simplest idea.
3 things. The Why, The How, The What! This simple idea explains why some individuals or organizations continuously inspire while others aren’t. Let me explain the terms really quickly. Every single person on the planet understands what they do. Some know how they do it. Whether through certain proprietary processes etc. Unfortunately very few of us understand WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO. By why I do not mean to make profit(money). Thats always a result. What I mean is: what’s your cause? What’s the reason you wake up in the morning? What’s your belief? Why should anyone care? As a result the way we think has always been from the clearest thing (The What) to the fuzziest thing (The Why) whereas inspired individuals or organizations regardless of their size always start with THE WHY! let me give you an example.
If Apple were like everyone else, here’s an example of how a communication message from them would sound:
We make great computers (The What)
They are beautifully designed, easy to use and user friendly (The How)
Wanna buy one? (The Why)
Completely uninspiring don’t u agree? and thats how most of us think. “Hi my name Mary and I work long hours with minimum supervision. I am self driven and I am a go getter. Please hire me”. The culture that has formed the roots of entrepreneurial journeys in this country does not inculcate such beliefs and therefore continuously end up not contributing to growth of our economies. Politicians with their 10 point plans continue to fill our screens with nonsense that is taking us absolutely nowhere. Some of the relationships we find ourselves in have no basis or reason for existence whatsoever. We say what we do, we say how its different and expect some sort of influence or vote. It’s simply uninspiring and unsustainable.
So here’s how Apple actually communicates;
Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently (The Why)
The way we do this is by making our products easy to use, beautifully designed and user friendly (The How)
We just happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one? (The What)
Totally different huh? Inspiring? All we did was reverse the order of information. What is simply proves to us is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. We create influence buy building a ‘cause’ not by selling a reason. Individuals who are driven by a cause shall manage to build influence and success in whatever they do. Companies that sell their cause, will succeed in building influences.
I am a firm believer of Building Passion in whatever we do and this is where its starts. Starting with ‘Why’ may just as well be the first step in personal prosperity as Africans. It might just as well be the first quantum leap to breaking out into wealth which in my translation starts in the mind.
Whatever personal aspirations we have, whatever entrepreneurial aspirations we have, lets build purpose into it, maybe its time we started killing our ‘Mental Poverty’…. Lets build Wealth!
Have a Wealthy day!
By Michael Ngigi
Hooray! You just got a job! Now it’s time to start living.
Think about the options that are now available to you. You could move out of your parent’s house. Maybe consider buying that piece of furniture that’s missing in your living room. In short, your options are now more than they were when you were jobless.
A friend asked me to give them advise on what they should do with their first earnings. After thinking about it and realized I was in need of the same advise. So I called up some of my friends who are more successful than I. The conversations we had were mind blowing. I felt like I had wasted my life all along. However, I have made a resolution to tell anyone who cares to listen about this age old secret that determines everything.
So for a moment, imagine me in white flowing robes, floating inside a light bulb. An idea bulb. I am speaking to you in a dream…
You cannot, should not celebrate with your first salary.
Yes I said it!
Come up with a lean budget based on your needs and fight yourself down to stick to it. I’m sure you’ll be left with some change (considering that your first job will most likely suck at paying!). This change is your lifeguard. It is your insurance for the future.
You see, in your early twenties you will be tempted to think you have time to make mistakes. But have you seen the increasing number of millionaires being made every day? Yesterday, my twenty-two year old friend announced to us that he’d bought a house. I was devastated! How did he do it? Maybe he stole, maybe he sold his soul to the devil but he bought a house… at twenty-two! Well I wouldn’t advice anyone to use the means above to get stuff as nothing comes for free (if you know what I mean). But time is closing in on us. If you’ve just started earning, you are lucky and blessed. If you have lost a lot of time like me, this is our last chance.
Eight years ago when I started earning, the year 2010 looked distant. In fact, I thought the world as I knew it would have ended by then.I was scared to invest because I thought I’d lose in the end…but so did John Rockefeller in 1855 and Manu Chandaria in 1955. Get it?
Lesson: The world is going to be around for atleast one more minute so plan for it.
Let me introduce you to an interesting concept in simple math. If you were to buy a 10 year investment policy for Kshs 5,000 a month a, you’d have accumulated Kshs 600,000 in the end. Now let’s go back to the start. Suppose you’re getting a minimum return on investment of 12.5% for your money you’d have Kshs 720,000 after 10 years. What if you bought three more policy’s for the same amount? Does Kshs 2,880,000 sound like music now? I have a feeling that you’re still not impressed…
I know what you’re thinking. Maybe you’ll start a business and make more money than what I propose. Good enough. But did you know nine out of ten businesses fail within the first year? Ok now you don’t believe in statistics? Read the signs puppy. You are young, with very little money to play with. Very little to waste for that matter. But then again, you need to dress up, eat better…
” A girl has needs you know…” says one newly employed young ‘professional’ woman.
” You know I got my people to take care of.” adds another responsible guy.
I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings but I have to break it to you. You are poor! Did you not get it when I said it the first time? Lean budget. Sharpen the axe first before you begin cutting down the tree! Your family will always need taking care of. Needs have always been there. Investing is about conquering yourself now so you could increase your options tomorrow. Wouldn’t you feel good buying real gold instead of plated junk? I thought so. I’m sure you’d also like to take your mother to the best physician and a list of a million other things that require you to be ‘equipped’.
Where there is smoke there is fire. We know that, even though we cannot verify it. But we are blind to more obvious signs. We walk into burning buildings and saw off the tree branch while we are seated on it. We just never seem to learn!
Well good people, life is interesting. It favors the bold and rewards those who take the narrow road.
Next time, I will tell you why you and I need to be wealthy. I will give you a picture of what money can do for you. For now, study the puppy.
Give him some food in a fancy dog bowl and he’ll wag his tail and be happy. After he’s done, he’ll run round the compound and when he comes across his food bowl, he’ll forget that was where he ate from a few minutes earlier. He’ll wag his tail even more, indicating he is twice as happy.
He has just found a new pot to piss in…
By Michael Ngigi
Do you remember The Littlest Hobo? A program about the dog that used to run round the city saving people in distress? It was one of the highest rated productions in the late 80s and early 90s. It used to make girls cry at the end of the show as the dog would put on this sad face and with one last look, he would disappear into the fading mist. In turn, young boys were inspired to be heroic. Eventually the new age caught up with us and in came Superman, Shera, Transformers and loads of other superheroes. It became impractical to emulate these new heroes. We grew up and for a moment I thought it had all been left behind….
You see at some point in life, my friends and I were homeless, jobless and broke. We had all ran away from our home in the hope that we’d make it on our own. At first, life on the street looks promising. There is freedom and one is accountable to no one else. Everyday is the same, wake up, look for something to eat, trot the whole day then look for somewhere to sleep. On the street there are no constants except ‘the cycle’.
One thing we had in common was the ability to dream big. We had this common feeling that one day we’d all live like normal people, let alone make it big. Eventually we got out and even though we’re still not ‘there’, we are thankful.
Today’s post is dedicated to the men and women who taught us some of the biggest lessons in our lives. We can never repay them fully but they made us who we are today. Whenever they’re in need, we drop everything to go to their rescue. However, there is one thing that you should know. These people are not the characters you’d expect. Our role models are just…well…strange. Check this out.
We used see her at work on the street. She was well past her time. Our ‘hooker’ was old and spent. She had evidently seen better days. Sometimes I can’t help thinking that maybe that’s why she always had time for us. Competition was stiff so she used to be the last one on the queue; sometimes she’d call it a day literally.
It was evident that she had seen better days. One could tell she’d been a stunner in her hey-days. All that was left was the ugly smear of red lipstick and heavy mascara. Underneath the cosmetics were dark, sad and lonely eyes that looked haunted. She’d seen it all.
Our hooker took it upon herself to feed us every other evening for almost two years! She’d always say she had a feeling we’d make it and come back for her. She liked our company. Maybe it was because we were always optimistic and smiling, hungry or not. At times she’d invite us to her home for dinner. She had a very big family (or heart for that matter), consisting of her son and numerous relatives. She took care of everyone who needed her.
So where did the hooker go? She eventualy got tired of the game. Actually, the game spat her out. She set up a small pub with her meagre savings. The business grew rapidly. She recently bought a huge apartment in a plush area in the city. She is wealthy. She still takes care of everyone.
He is a man with a bad reputation. Rumors about him are often than not, true. He was always up to no good. The thug stole and lied for a living. Sometimes, he hurt his victims. However, there was a side of him rarely seen to the normal eye. He was loyal and always sacrificed himself for the sake of others. I can’t quite remember how we became friends but maybe it was written before we were born. This guy was our best teacher on life matters. Before we met him, we thought the world was a nice place where there was no evil. He taught us to take big risks. He taught us the weakest person in a fight was the one that thought he was smaller and weaker. Point of note. You are what you think.
The guy on the street
He was an honest man. Everyday (for the last twelve years), he wakes up at three in the morning and makes his way to his corner on the street. He sets up his makeshift shop and lights his jiko. By sunrise, the tea and bread are ready. He makes around 300 shillings a day. Not enough for a man with a family. In short, every coin counts. I have never understood why despite his tough situation, he fed us everyday for 3 years. He never complained. Our bill staggered out of control [in standards of the day]. We couldn’t pay up; but he didn’t care. All he used to say is, a hungry man chasing a dream is will never wake up to a future. After 3 years, we owed him kshs. 2,727.
Whenever I make money, I keep some for him. He has taught me a valuable lesson in life. Never ask for anything in return when you help someone out. It has to be a one hundred percent affair. Never doubt a beggar on the street. You either help or you don’t. Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart and never feel guilty.
The guy on the street is still on the same spot twelve years on. Sometimes I feel that it was written before he was born. Maybe that’s where he is supposed to be. With the city council still spreading it’s jurisdiction, business is doing badly. However, he works hard with an open heart. I go for breakfast at his shack every last Saturday of the month. In our place, there are three young men he’s been feeding for the last one year; for free.
These are just but some of the men and women who have impacted my life greatly. My Littlest Hobos.
Have you met your Littlest Hobo?